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journey to the gulf. the first family goes to florida's panhandle to convince other americans it's a great place to visit. but a controversy follows the president there over that mosque near ground zero. the survivors of that alaska plane crash, what they're telling investigators about the ments before impact. to the rescue, u.s. marines bring desperately needed help to the disaster zone in pakistan. and happy anniversary to a girl who's broken barriers and shown millions of young friends girl who's broken barriers and shown millions of young friends a brave, new world. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening.
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the president, the first lady and their daughter sasha arrived in florida today for a quick trip, just one night in the gulf. the white house late today releasing a photo showing a smiling president frolicking in the waves with his daughter. but on this day, the symbolism of spending time down south where the oil spill has done so much damage was competing with an issue from way up north here in new york. nbc's mike viqueira is traveling with the president tonight. he joins us from panama city beach in florida. mike, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, kate. the first family minus malia who is still away at camp came to florida's panhandle in part to show tourists and americans at large that it's safe to come back to the coast. but as the president's comments last night and the aftermath of those comments, he and his aides have been dealing with this controversial support for building that mosque near ground zero. even as the first couple and daughter sasha arrived this morning on the gulf coast for a weekend getaway, it is mr. obama's support last night for the construction of a mosque
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close to new york's ground zero that has proven controversial. >> i believe that muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances. >> reporter: his remarks at a white house dinner honoring the start of the muslim holy month of ramadan came after white house aides said the president would not weigh in on the debate, calling it a local matter. conservatives, as well as some victims' families, condemn the president's support. >> it's irresponsible and morally wrong and insensitive to do it. that's the issue the president never addressed. >> reporter: today in florida, the president spoke out again, appearing to backtrack on his support for the mosque, saying, i was not commenting and i will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. i was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. meanwhile, the obamas' visit along the gulf coast comes with
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a message for beleaguered residents of the region -- >> oil is no longer flowing into the gulf. it has not been flowing for a month. and i'm here to tell you that our job is not finished and we are not going anywhere until it is. >> reporter: today's visit is as much about pictures as it is about policy. the obamas are expected to set an example for reluctant tourists. visiting gulf hotels and restaurants. early today, the president said he would take a dip tomorrow. >> i'm definitely going to go swimming but we're not going to let the press pool come because you guys will take a picture of me without my shirt on. >> reporter: but the swim apparently couldn't wait. late today, the white house released this picture. mr. obama and daughter sasha. and late today, the president's spokesman put out a statement emphasizing that the president is not backing off his statement about the mosque, simply saying that the government does not have a right to tell any faith where they can build a house of worship. kate? >> mike viqueira in florida,
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thank you. as mike just reported, president obama spoke again today about that plan to build an islamic center in the shadow of ground zero. and his comments have certainly drawn fire. cnbc's chief washington correspondent john harwood joins us now. john, good evening. the white house said he wouldn't wade into this, wouldn't get involved in a local issue, they called it. but he's certainly involved now. why do you think he made these comments last night? >> reporter: i talked to a senior white house official today who said the president had not intended to speak on whether the mosque should be put in that location, but rather mark the right of the -- a church or the right of the faith of islam to build a mosque if they could get local approval. that process is ongoing. and the start of the ramadan holy month was one that gave the president an occasion to point that out. >> the white house said today, as mike said, that the president wasn't trying to walk his comments back. but it sure seemed like they were doing some damage control. are they worried this becomes a huge political issue, especially in an election year?
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>> reporter: this official i talked to said this is just noise in august. there's no political upside for the president in this. i talked to a couple of republican pollsters who noted that even republican leaders in the congress are exploiting this and criticizing the president, this is not likely to have a major impact on the election. they say, what we need to focus on are jobs and the economy. >> john harwood, thanks so much. back to the gulf where the president is today, the man in charge of the bp clean-up had an update today on what happens next. and for more on that part of the story, we're joined by nbc's chief environmental affairs correspondent, anne thompson, down in venice, louisiana. good evening, anne. >> reporter: good evening. today we learned there is a split between bp and the federal government over whether or not to finish that relief well with the bottom kill that would once and for all put to rest this well that's been out of control and caused all these problems here in the gulf. now, the federal government said that bp requested not to finish the relief well.
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instead, it wanted to rely on what has already happened. the well has been capped for a month as of tomorrow. and then it was cemented from the top with the static kill. but the federal science team has determined that the benefits of cementing that well from the bottom with the bottom kill far outweighed the risks. the biggest risk is pressure. and so to that end, today national incident commander thad allen ordered bp to come up with a plan for pressure tests and a way to relieve any additional pressure in the capping stack and blowout preventer and a plan to deal with the thousands of barrels of oil that may be in the well. that's going to push back to date to bottom kill to later next week. >> thank you, anne. there is good news to report tonight from iowa where severe weather earlier this week caused massive flooding and left tens of thousands of people without clean drinking water from the tap. nbc' ron allen is there in ames, iowa, with an update tonight. good evening, ron. >> reporter: good evening to you, kate.
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the good news is the weather has been good here, no rain. and the floodwaters around town have dropped considerably. there's still a problem here, though, at iowa state university. behind me, they are pumping water out of the bowels of a huge sports arena here on campus. that process is going to go on for sometime. they're also drying out several buildings here on campus. but school officials are confident things will be okay as some 28,000 students begin arriving here next week for the fall semester. now, out in the town of ames, some 55,000 people, volunteers are still giving away free bottled water for people to drink because there are concerns that the municipal town water supply could have been contaminated during all the flooding as this town recovers from the worst flooding here ever. back to you, kate. >> ron allen, thanks so much. severe weather also overseas today. strong winds in portugal are fanning wildfires around that country. more than 600 firefighters are battling at least two dozen fires. some fires have been burning in a national park for four days and are now threatening nearby homes.
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police suspect the wildfires were deliberately started. authorities in china declared today a national day of mourning after 1,200 people were killed earlier this week in a huge landslide there. it occurred in the remote northwest part of the country after heavy rains, more than 500 people are still missing and the forecast in that region calls for more rain. and in pakistan, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding after the worst flooding in decades. the united nations estimates 6 million people still need food, water and shelter and have not received any assistance at all. now the u.s. marines are helping out, flying missions into pakistan's remote swat valley. nbc's stephanie gosk rode along and has our report. >> reporter: u.s. helicopter pilots flying aid missions in pakistan's swat valley say the terrain there is beautiful but deadly. the gorges are deep and the weather changes quickly. it is also where an estimated
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100,000 people have been trapped since the floods hit just over two weeks ago, washing away every bridge. most of the 1,400 people killed by the raging water died here. >> translator: there's no clean drinking water here, no food, nothing. everything has been swept away by the floods. >> reporter: disease is spreading. today the first case of cholera was confirmed and thousands of children are sick with diarrhea. the pakistani military has asked u.s. forces to focus their relief effort in swat. in the last nine days, u.s. helicopters have evacuated more than 3,000 people and delivered 180 tons of food. >> our guards will sit in the back. >> reporter: major dan rice is the commander of the task force. when they got the call, his unit was on tour in afghanistan. >> they're thrilled. i have more volunteering to come out to come over here and help still in afghanistan, still wanting to come. >> reporter: today we joined his team and ran into the same problem that has grounded more than half of their flights --
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rain. we just got word that we have to turn around. clouds have moved into the swat valley and it's now too unsafe to land, a good indication of just how difficult it is to bring aid to people that are stranded there. back on base, the marines have just arrived to take over the effort. flown in from the u.s. and the arabian sea. 19 helicopters in total. the commander of the operation acknowledges that they have a difficult job ahead. >> the notion that it's taking time to get to some of the people that have been affected is not surprising to me. this is a historically large disaster. >> reporter: when the clouds broke, the marines flew north. in a remote mountain village, they delivered flour and high-nutrient biscuits and evacuated the neediest, many of them hungry, sick and homeless. a successful day, weather permitting, they hope to do it again tomorrow. stephanie gosk, nbc news, swat valley, pakistan.
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those american marines came from afghanistan where the u.s. faces an increasingly tough fight under the leadership of general david petraeus. the general will be david gregory's guest tomorrow on "meet the press." and david joins us now with a preview of their conversation. david? >> here in afghanistan, general david petraeus, the commander of u.s. and nato forces, is speaking out for the first time about this war which he is now directly charged with turning around. he replaces general stan mcchrystal who was fired by the president for airing publicly his disagreement, his grievances, his frustration with the war effort. now in comes david petraeus facing some very difficult questions about the future of the fight here. the nature of the government in afghanistan and whether it is a reliable partner with the united states. the nature of the enemy, why it is the insurgency is stronger and not weaker nine years after the war began. and the future of 100,000 u.s. troops, how long will they be here? >> in the speech that the president made at west point, there were two messages.
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one was a message of substantial additional commitment, additional 30,000 troops, again, more civilians, more funding for afghan forces, authorization of 100,000 more of them and so forth. but also a message of increased urgency. and that's what july 2011 really connotes. it is to all the participants, those in kabul, some of us in uniform, again, our civilian counterpart, that we've got to get on with this, that this has been going on for some nine years or so, that there is understandable concern and in some cases frustration. and that, therefore, we've really got to put ore shoulder to the wheel and show during the course of this year that progress can be achieved. and, again, one manifestation of that is out there that you have this date. >> and you can see our entire interview with general david petraeus tomorrow morning, a special edition of "meet the press" from kabul, afghanistan. kate? >> we'll be watching, david, thanks. when "nightly news" continues on this saturday, what the survivors of that deadly
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plane crash in alaska are telling investigators about the harrowing collision into a mountain. and later, a big celebration for a heroine millions of kids have grown up with. s of kids have groen grown up with. [ female announcer ] it's not always easy to get the calcium we need from our diet.
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the survivors of that plane crash in alaska that killed former senator ted stevens and four other people are telling their stories now, giving federal investigators new clues about what may have happened to cause the plane to crash into a mountainside. nbc's miguel almaguer has more
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details tonight from anchorage. miguel, good evening. >> reporter: good evening. investigators have been able to speak to 2 of those 4 survivors and it's their firsthand account that may help them focus in on what went wrong.ocus in on what went wrong. as the heavy-lift helicopter retrieved the wreckage, investigators were learning what the moment of crisis was like from people on the plane. one told them he noticed nothing unusual. >> he stated as they were flying along that he detected no changes in pitch or engine noise and that they were flying along and then they just stopped flying. >> reporter: new photos of the wreckage show the body of the plane snapped after impact. investigators say they've learned when pilot terry smith took off, he had three-mile visibility in clouds at 2,000 feet. >> the first survivor that was
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interviewed stated that the weather was poor at the lodge in the morning but due to weather, they postponed their trip until the afternoon. he recalled the pilot giving a safety briefing before departure and that he was wearing his seat belt. >> reporter: investigators were told smith did not request a weather briefing from air traffic officials, but may have researched the weather on his own. >> it was possible that the pilot was getting his weather information over the internet. >> reporter: officials want to know if the cockpit warning system, which can detect mountains, was working and why an emergency locater beacon failed to send a signal that the plane crashed and where. the ntsb is also looking into the background of the pilot. although he flew commercial planes for nearly 30 years and logged thousands of hours in smaller aircraft, investigators say he had only 45 hours of experience in the type of plane he was flying that day. pilots here in alaska say weather can change on a dime and
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the ntsb is working to pinpoint the exact forecast during the time of the crash. kate? >> miguel, thank you. up next, our richard engel reports from baghdad on the departure of the last u.s. combat troops in iraq and what the way ford could look like once they leave. p-a-d... p.a.d. isn't just poor circulation in your legs causing you pain. it more than doubles your risk of a heart attack or stroke. i was going to tell you. if you have p.a.d., plavix can help protect you from a heart attack or stroke. plavix helps keep blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots, the cause of most heart attacks and strokes. call the doctor about plavix -- please? i will. [ male announcer ] certain genetic factors and some medicines such as prilosec reduce the effect of plavix leaving you at greater risk for heart attack and stroke. your doctor may use genetic tests to determine treatment. don't stop taking plavix without talking to your doctor as your risk of heart attack or stroke may increase. people with stomach ulcers or conditions that cause bleeding should not use plavix. taking plavix alone or with some other medicines
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war ii, 65 years ago today. today's u.s. forces have, of course, been fighting two wars for the better part of a decade, the withdrawal of u.s. combat troops from iraq is now well under way. but there are growing concerns about the reliability of the iraqi security force they leave behind. nbc's richard engel has our report, part of our special coverage of iraq, the long way out. >> reporter: in east baghdad, a security force created by the u.s. military still patrols. it operates like a neighborhood watch. at checkpoints and inspecting cars and markets. these men are part of a militia that was the brainchild of general david petraeus. when petraeus commanded the 2007 troop surge, he recruited, trained and paid 100,000 iraqis to fight al qaeda. many of them had once fought against american troops. but petraeus won them over. it was a turning point in the war. today the fighters remain loyal to petraeus. they even adopted as a logo the
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screaming eagle, the symbol of petraeus' old division, the 101st airborne. these iraqi forces were responsible for many of the gains associated with the u.s. troop surge. they fought with american soldiers, exchanged information and battled al qaeda together. but now that u.s. troops are leaving, these so-called awakening forces feel they're being abandoned. in east baghdad, this man told me, the americans used us for a while and then left us. we had a common interest in fighting al qaeda, now the americans have moved on, he says. u.s. troops have tried to integrate awakening members into the iraqi government. but these men, all sunnis say the shiite-dominated government doesn't want them and they're no longer paid on time. the u.s. commander in iraq told tus awakening members will be taken care of. >> they've been with the united states now for a long time. they've depended on us. we've slowly turned this over to
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the government of iraq. it's unclear in their minds where the government of iraq will go with this program. so it's creating some concern like we're not sure what the future is going to bring for us. i'm convinced the government of iraq is going to move forward with this. >> reporter: but there are fears of u.s. troops leave, the awakening force, once seen as a solution to iraq's problems, could turn against the government. richard engel, nbc news, baghdad. the jazz legend abbie lincoln has died. she was an outspoken advocate for civil rights. she was 80 years old. when we come back, a young explorer who changed the landscape in tv land marks a milestone. dry mouth can be frustrating... and ignoring it can lead to... sipping water can help, but dentists recommend biotene. biotene moisturizes and helps supplement some of saliva's enzymes, providing soothing relief when you need it most.
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if you've ever said the phrase "swiper, no swiping," then you know the power of the little girl who made that phrase famous -- dora the explorer will forever be a 7-year-old cartoon character. but this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of a groundbreaking show that's been almost inescapable for a generation of kids. here's nbc's kristen welker. >> reporter: these southern california schoolchildren have been transported into a bilingual world of adventure and imagination. >> come on -- >> reporter: they are in dora's universe now. the latina cartoon heroine, dora the explorer, each episode an
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interactive experience. >> say it with us. >> it's a teaching program. >> red, blue, green. >> she learns different things. >> reporter: the eternal 7-year-old is celebrating her 10th anniversary. so what would dora say? >> she would probably say, it's my birthday! >> reporter: 14-year-old caitlin sanchez is the voice behind the animated sensation. >> it's really special and i feel honored to be playing such an iconic character. >> the secret to her success is kids feel as if she's their partner. and i think that makes the kid at home feel really special and empowered. >> reporter: dora is really much more than a cartoon hit. she's become a marketing phenomenon, from videos to books, kids just can't get enough of her. so fantastic, she's become a billion-dollar industry. dora is broadcast all over the world in 30 languages. but she has gotten some negative
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attention as well. this doctored photo of her hit the web during the debate over immigration in arizona. it was meant to suggest she's undocumented. the photo enraged her supporters who see her as a trail blazer, the first latina heroine to hit mainstream children's television. why is dora so popular? >> well, i think she really exemplifies the diversity of our culture now, particularly for people under 18, where 1 in 4 kids nationwide are latino. >> reporter: all of that may be too complicated for these little ones, millions of them simply see her as a role model. >> happy birthday, dora. >> reporter: and they can't wait for their next adventure. kristen welker, manhattan beach, california. >> she's all over my house. that is "nbc nightly news" for this saturday night. i'm kate snow reporting from new york. for lester holt and all of us here at nbc news, thanks for watching. here at nbc news, thanks for watching. have a great night.
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-- captions by vitac -- good evening. i'm diane dwyer. in san francisco, police are trying to determine what led to a deadly hit aupd run collision that killed a 21-year-old bicyclist. about

NBC Nightly News
NBC August 14, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST

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TOPIC FREQUENCY U.s. 18, Us 9, Plavix 8, Florida 6, Afghanistan 6, David Petraeus 5, Pakistan 5, Iraq 5, Nbc 5, Alaska 4, New York 4, Sasha 3, Cialis 3, Advil 3, Kate 3, Dora 3, Nbc News 3, Anne 2, Mr. Obama 2, Ron Allen 2
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